Critique ideas: tag, teams, and "the list"
I  N  T  E  R  A  C  T  I  V  E    D  E  S  I  G  N    F  O  R  U  M 
Issue 17   |   November 1999 


More ideas:
5 Tips for Better Crits

Raising a critique from the dead


Book review
The Education of an E-Designer
by Steven Heller



IT WORKED FOR ME (submitted by Cindy Lowrey, Cleveland, Ohio)

Thumbtacks and beyond
It's been a while since I've been in the classroom, but I remember critiques well. The long, painful silences and more stirring in seats than children in bed on Christmas Eve.

I used the thumbtack trick all the time, but my technique was that each student got one thumbtack and placed it on the piece they thought was working the best. I like your idea better. If you have time, using two colors & having a "second look," probably yields more "chosen" pieces.

Playing Tag
A trick I used when I didn't want to do all of the talking was the "tag, you're it!" method:

A student volunteers (or is picked randomly) to stand up and talk about a piece. When he/she is finished, other students agree or disagree. After the discussion, the designer of the piece has to get up and choose the next one to talk about. They can pick their "favorite" or "least favorite" as long as they defend their opinion.

I also liked the group method. I split the class into small groups (five at most) and had them critique each other's work. (I walked around and listened, commenting only when I thought they were sending a student in the wrong direction.) If there was time, the group elected the piece that inspired the most interesting discussion and presented it to the whole class.

I only recommend using this method toward the end of the semester. You can get some scary results if you do it too early: the critique becomes an exercise in the blind leading the blind.

"The List"
If all else failed, I subjected my students to "The List". The list was used as a guideline for discussion and included things like "hierarchy," "reference to the frame," etc. If students couldn't think of anything to say, they could choose a topic off the list to begin discussion.

No matter what I ever did as a teacher, I was always sick of listening to myself by the end of the semester.

Article by Cindy Lowrey, Web and Multimedia Designer, Nesnadny + Schwartz, Cleveland, OH. In a former life Cindy taught Visual Communication Design at Kent State University. Email her at


It worked for Cindy. How about you?
Send in an idea or technique you use in critiques and we'll share them.


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